Classic Mountain Story
|Date of Rescue||04/27/2015|
|Saved By||Heli Sika|
|Beacon Purchased From||Rent Beacon Hire LTD|
I have been hunting for many years and consider myself to be reasonably experienced. I have never been lost before or spent an unplanned night out.
We arrived by helicopter to Tussock Hut around midday on Sunday.
I headed out with my friend Ben Watson for an afternoon/evening hunt on the main ridge to the North of the main Tussock-Boyd track. We separated when we got there. An hour or so later I was siddling on the Ngaruroro side of the ridge when a came across a roaring stag. As I attempted to get him in, time passed and it started to get dark. Whilst I didn’t anticipate a night out I thought that I was well equipped if that should happen. As soon as I had insufficient light to continue with the hunt, I pulled out my head torch, climbed back to the main ridge and headed back along the ridge to find the main track back down to Tussock.
After an hours fruitless search for the main track under torch light I decided it was safer to camp for the night and find the track in the morning. I was very aware that the weather forecast was suggesting heavy rain and winds the following day. I had map and compass, emergency bag, food, lighter, plenty of layers.
At 9pm I was comfortable and went to sleep.
At about 1:30 in the morning it started to rain well ahead of when we were expecting it (classic mountain situation). By 4 o’clock it was bucketing down. Around 4:30 my emergency sleeping bag split from head to toe. By 6:30 when it finally got light I was drenched through and it was starting to get cold.
My map had got totally wet through the night and in the process of getting it out a number of times became useless and unreadable – a bad mistake.
After following a stream system for a couple of hours with the growing realisation that I should have punched out into the Harkness Valley already I hit a Doc Managed track. This was however the track to Oamaru. By now, despite 5 layers of clothing, I was drenched through and very cold. The weather had progressively got worse. By 9 o’clock I had found myself on the Waitawhero Saddle in a gale which seemed to be getting stronger. Visibility was still OK but getting worse.
I had been chasing my tail now for a long time – no map (now paste), no spare torch batteries, wet through, weather worsening, visibility reducing, early stage hypothermia.
I’m glad I had the locator beacon and it was the correct decision in hindsight to activate it when I did. It turns out that my two mates who were worried sick about me bearing in mind the weather that had struck had activated one of their beacons an hour before I did. They too are reasonably experienced hunters who know the Kawekas well. They also would not have changed their decision to activate the beacon under the circumstances.
75 minutes later the helicopter landed on Waitawhero Saddle, picked me up and took me back to Tussock Hut.
The helicopter pilot (Ben of Heli Sika) made the comment that he felt that in the state I was in that it was a legitimate use of the beacon and that they had just received word that the weather forecast had deteriorated and would get worse from here. Worsening weather may have meant that a helicopter would not have been able to pick me up in a few hours hence.
So, that’s the story. A few lessons learned but I was very grateful to have taken the precaution of having insisted that everyone in our party had a locator beacon each.